This is the 2013 edition of my annual review of year-end fundraising email subject lines that started in 2011 and continued in 2012. My email vault continues to grow each year — like some vast hoard under a mountain.

I analyzed 320 email messages sent to me from 55 nonprofit organizations between December 1st and 31st, 2013. Here are some insights, trends, and the complete list of email subject lines.

Email by Date

Most nonprofits in the analysis followed a pattern of sending most emails between Tuesday and Thursday throughout December. One exception was Christmas day, which was on a Wednesday, where not a single email arrived in my inbox. Sunday and Saturday had the lowest email volume during the month.

Email Volume by Day

It’s worth noting that #GivingTuesday had the third highest email volume of any day in December. There were 22 nonprofit organizations that sent 24 email messages on #GivingTuesday. Even if all the emails were not specifically focused on #GivingTuesday, it’s clear that many organizations wanted their appeals to take advantage of heightened awareness happening on December 3rd.

Email by Hour

50% of all fundraising emails were received between 9am ET and 1pm ET during the month of December. 31% of emails were received after 1pm ET. Only 11% were received before 8am ET.

Email Volume by Hour

This lines up with the time frame when the most money was raised during December. Online giving was at its highest between 11am ET and 1pm ET in December. Contrast this trend with commercial email which has the most opens after 12pm and the highest activity between 2pm and 5pm.

As nonprofits continue to shift to more mobile friendly strategies the smart organizations will start focusing on other time frames. And testing to see patterns in email activity and donations can help to improve results too.

Email Frequency

Nonprofits sent a median of 5 fundraising emails during the month of December 2013. I was sent 19 fundraising emails by one single nonprofit organization during the month. 11 other organizations sent me more than 10 email messages. There were 12 organizations that only sent me one email message during December.

One of the most common questions that I get is how much email should a nonprofit send. The answer is that only testing will tell you the right number. But it’s clear that 19 emails or just 1 email probably isn’t the right number for most nonprofits. Most nonprofits still don’t send as much email as they should be.

Subject Line Analysis

This word cloud was generated based on all 320 fundraising email subject lines. The most frequently occurring words are larger and common English words have been removed.

Email Subject Lines

This year’s most common words were “gift” and “Holiday” with “GivingTuesday” also being used a lot. About 4% of fundraising email subject lines promoted a tax deduction, 8% had a “last chance” focus, and 30% used the word “you” in the subject line. There were 12 emails (4%) that used my first name in the subject line and only 3 faux forwards. Don’t get me started on the number of nonprofits that used “Dear Friend” in the body of fundraising email — a very serious email crime.

The Best of the Best

The best email campaigns of December had a mix of the right ingredients. Good offers, clear messaging, targeted segmentation, and mobile friendly messages. That last element is more important than ever when you consider that 48% of emails are now opened on a mobile device. This is an area that the vast majority of nonprofits still don’t do properly.

The use of end of year giving challenges has proven to be very successful for a number of organizations. This tactic was used by many more organizations than in years past. I refer to it as the Kickstartification of fundraising where nonprofits use time-boxed fundraising goals to drive giving campaigns.

A few words of advice and caution about these challenge campaigns: Don’t forget to follow-up with donors about the final results. Nonprofits were quick to send follow-up emails about how close they were to the goal, but very few sent follow-up fundraising emails on the results. Make a resolution for less outputs and more outcomes in 2014.

Looking Forward

The demise of email has often been overstated. But we do continue to see single channel communication dying. That’s a good thing. In the flurry of fundraising emails there was also an increase in the use of social media to drive year-end giving. (More on that in a future blog post.)

I continue to have concerns about over-saturation during end of year fundraising and the trap that it creates. Movements like #GivingTuesday have the potential to help get an earlier start to the peak fundraising season. And certain sectors have done a better job of distributing and diversifying their fundraising during the rest of the year.

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All the Nonprofit Email Subject Lines

Here are all the fundraising email subject lines beginning with those received on December 31, 2013 and moving backwards in time to December 1, 2013:

  • Only hours left to give in 2013
  • Re: Take one last action in 2013
  • Hours left to meet our match deadline
  • Last call: Deadline’s just a few hours away
  • What Will You Do Before Midnight?
  • Very Last Chance to Make a 2013 Tax-Deductible Gift
  • FWD: We can’t do it WITHOUT YOU!
  • Deadline: Only hours left
  • All I want is some truth
  • This is it
  • No More Time – Help Us Now
  • Hours left: but still short of our goal
  • Happy New Year’s from the Charleston Symphony
  • Only hours left to give in 2013
  • FW: Help us improve more lives in 2014
  • Take one last action in 2013
  • Almost out of time
  • Hours left: why your support counts
  • Last chance!
  • It’s Not Too Late to Help!
  • You still have a few hours to make a 2013 gift to _____’s animals
  • Today is the last day
  • Last chance to support nonprofits nationwide with a single gift…
  • Before midnight
  • Last Chance: Give by Midnight Tonight
  • What’s Your New Years Resolution?
  • Urgent: Steve, Just Hours Remain
  • one last thing
  • A gentle but urgent nudge – please give today!
  • Imagine 2014
  • Steve, A Great Way to End 2013
  • Just hours left to join our Year-End Drive
  • The Greatest Gift
  • DEADLINE: Make your tax-deductible gift by midnight
  • Today is the day
  • Make your 2013 Year-End Gift Before MIDNIGHT
  • Less than 24 hours to double your gift
  • Today is the last day of the _____ Challenge: Thanks for your support!
  • Your tax-deductible gift to MoMA
  • Don’t let 2013 end without being a part of this
  • LAST DAY: We need you
  • We can’t do it WITHOUT YOU!
  • Last Chance
  • It’s not too late to make a 2013 gift!
  • Maximize your tax credit by the December 31 deadline
  • Fwd: simply put
  • Yes!
  • What’s your resolution?
  • _____ hаs а Gift fоr Yоu
  • Double your impact and help save lives
  • Help us improve more lives in 2014.
  • Make change possible
  • At this very moment
  • Your last tax-deductible day
  • One Day Left to Make a Tax Deductible Donation
  • Just one day left to make your tax-deductible gift
  • 48 hours left: Be the light
  • Five minutes can change lives
  • You still have time to make a 2013 gift to Ottawa’s animals
  • It’s Been an Awesome Year at _____ and _____
  • 48 Hours Remain: Make a difference before 2014!
  • You will want to support this. But you have less than 48 hours to do so
  • Share a world of discovery
  • Two more days
  • With 48 Hours to go, stakes just got higher
  • 39 hours
  • Your tax-deductible donation
  • Last chance: DOUBLE your dollars!
  • Steven – Review Your 2013 Donations
  • URGENT: 48 hours left to have your gift matched
  • Hurry! It’s Not Too Late
  • Tax Deadline Just Days Away
  • Multiply your good – we’ll match your gift until Dec. 31
  • Lives are on the line
  • simply put
  • Double your year-end gift.
  • Five Days Left to Make a Tax-Deductible Donation
  • I have a great role for you
  • Act Now: Nature in South Carolina Needs You
  • Only 3 days left to give in the year
  • Give Strength
  • The first to respond
  • Why I’m writing to you on a Saturday
  • Steven — our last email
  • They came back
  • Snow storms, tropical rains, and you
  • You Can Invest in Opportunity Today
  • full potential
  • Help birds!
  • 3 important facts
  • Thank you and Happy New Year!
  • The secret to our success
  • See? We couldn’t have done it without you
  • Steve, will you help Baby Yolee?
  • So many ways to say THANK YOU, we couldn’t pick just one.
  • Apollo set the standard. We follow his lead.
  • Help cancer survivors like me
  • 8 Incredible Things You’ve Done This Year
  • WATCH: 5 Reasons We’re Celebrating
  • Off the Sidelines: Help Us Reach x2 as many athletes!
  • Happy New Year from the _____
  • Change isn’t easy – but that doesn’t stop you
  • for our kids
  • Urgent: What if _____ disappeared?
  • URGENT: year-end deadline
  • Tax Deadline Just Days Away
  • This week, help protect the ocean
  • There’s still time
  • We were ready
  • Almost out of time
  • An unprecedented year
  • Five days left – show your support now
  • Be a Fan with Publix and P&G
  • You were there for me
  • Thank you!
  • Six Days Left to Make a Tax-Deductible Donation
  • Relying on you
  • next year
  • Click. Print. Give the perfect last minute gift.
  • There’s Still Time!
  • Merry Christmas from Breezy and all the Animals at the _____
  • In memory of his five-year-old sister…
  • Celebrating the Season Together as One Family
  • This Holiday, Deliver Safe Birth to Women
  • It’s December 24 — is your shopping done?
  • The Greatest Gift
  • Last-minute holiday ideas
  • I hear sleighbells…
  • The best New Year’s resolution you’ll make!
  • Call the Midwife Holiday Special
  • How are you celebrating the holidays?
  • They were in their pajamas
  • Make Your Tax-Deductible Gift to Nature
  • Still Looking for the Perfect Gift?
  • A gift that lasts decades? Find out how
  • Peace and Joy
  • Huge
  • There is still time to make your 2013 donation!
  • Five reasons why you should support _____
  • We couldn’t have done it without you
  • A very special video for you from the animals at the _____
  • Last-minute gift
  • Your support can change lives
  • Urgent: Armed militias terrorize civilians in human rights hotspot
  • A sleepless vigil
  • Vote For Your #1 Nature Photo by Midnight
  • A special thank you from _____
  • last minute
  • Warm Holiday Wishes From _____
  • Last chance to give the best. gift. ever.
  • Help. My name is TODAY.
  • GBBC eNews: The 2014 Poster, Tricky Finches, and New Video
  • Save the Date- Girls’ Night Out!
  • Steve: Make a difference before 2013 ends
  • _____ Has A Gift For You
  • After 1 Year, this Bundle of Joy Is Home
  • ‘Tis the season!
  • Happy Holidays!
  • Consider your holiday shopping finished.
  • Act Now: Nature Needs You in South Carolina
  • Act now to protect birds and biodiversity
  • Children flogged in Syrian secret prisons
  • Help us reach out!
  • Make a Gift, Change a Life
  • Happy Holidays from _____
  • NestWatch eNewsletter: An intimate look at nesting roadrunners, and why some birds go all out
  • Be a part of our special night!
  • Reminder: Go behind the scenes at _____
  • Your donation will change lives
  • There is still time for you to give the gift of love to an animal at the _____
  • Think out of the box this holiday season
  • New Ways to Give and DOUBLE your Donation
  • Philanthropy Matters December 2013
  • Putting clients first in India
  • Steve, the ocean needs our help
  • Give the Gift of Typhoon relief: Your chance to double your impact ends Monday
  • Claim Your Calendar Before December 31st
  • The minimum wage isn’t cutting it.
  • Be a Hero Like Albert!
  • Still looking for gift ideas for your family?
  • Year-End Drive starts today — don’t miss out
  • A remarkable year
  • Be the light
  • Help _____ Deliver Hope to the Philippines
  • Help your local homeless shelter, arts programs, and animal rescue–all at the same time
  • A few last minute ideas…
  • Get in the Holiday Spirit, Little Macy, Very Special Music
  • Home for the Holidays
  • Make Your Tax-Deductible Gift to Nature
  • Make your gifts count in 2013
  • NEEDED: Warm Hearts, Warm Homes
  • Think outside the (gift) box
  • Double your impact
  • With your help, we can reach thousands of families
  • Steve, there’s still time to take action on mega-dairies
  • What’s Happening at _____!
  • Holiday greetings from the sea
  • Last Chance: Up to 40% off _____-Inspired Gifts
  • How Sherlock Changed the World
  • Risk of severe hunger – please read
  • FREE 2-day shipping – ends at midnight.
  • Go behind the scenes at _____
  • Deadline extended! Custom-printed cards available until midnight
  • Today Only: Free Shipping + 20% Member Savings
  • Last Chance: Holiday Shipping Deadline
  • Newtown, we are with you.
  • _____ Annual Gathering: Violence Prevention
  • Steven — please read a personal appeal from _____’s founder
  • One more name for your gift list
  • Double your gift: help two animals with one donation
  • When soldiers rape, where do you turn?
  • DEADLINE: Just 1 more day to order custom-printed cards
  • Kona’s Happy Ending
  • December e-newsletter: Our New Year’s Resolution!
  • Free shipping ends Monday
  • Happy Christmas from Team _____
  • Your thoughts?
  • Member Previews Start Tomorrow
  • Driven to drug use in a ‘treatment’ center
  • ’tis the season for sea turtles
  • Gifts that make a difference: double your impact
  • _____ Celebrates the Holidays
  • Early Investments Give Kids a Shot
  • Annual _____ Membership Renewal
  • You Make an Incredible Difference in South Carolina
  • _____ eNews: Read Our Review of the Top Binoculars of 2013
  • Don’t wait: Unwrapped cards are going in the mail at midnight!
  • Donate today and your name could appear on KDKA-TV!
  • _____’s Campaign Update: Still $3,000 from our matching gift goal
  • Last Day for Free Shipping
  • News from _____ – December 2013
  • Free shipping. Plus, a free personalized greeting card.
  • _____: An Excellent Choice
  • Happy Holidays!
  • He risked everything. Show him it was worth it.
  • Great holiday gifts from only $10
  • Invest in One Family
  • Great Places: A Message of Thanks
  • Last Member Shopping Days Of The Year STARTS TODAY
  • The gift of the season
  • The perfect gift? Search no further.
  • An update on 2013 at _____
  • Help free another human rights hero
  • Uphill battle
  • Make the holidays brighter for sick children — every gift doubled!
  • Your Gift Matched Dollar for Dollar
  • $1 Becomes $2 and Changes More Lives
  • Steve, you could save Jodi.
  • Your search is over!
  • Today is your chance
  • An early Christmas gift
  • Honor Your Loved Ones This Holiday Season
  • Stellaaaaaaaaaa
  • I know you’re not thinking of ignoring this message
  • Free Holiday Shipping until December 16
  • Your new title
  • Give the gift of the ocean
  • Last Chance: Stand Up for Forests Today
  • Global update: What we’ve accomplished together in 2013
  • Save the rainforest. Save tigers.
  • Enter to win
  • Race Ricky Bobby
  • Receive Monthly Developments Magazine
  • Puppy Left to Suffer with Broken Legs
  • Steve, campaign update: Wildlife crime takes centre stage at London’s City Hall
  • US Plea Bargains | Nelson Mandela
  • Important News
  • Be a Hero for Trees
  • Can’t argue with the math
  • Gifts that wow and change lives – inside
  • When journalism is a crime
  • A very special video for you from the animals at the _____
  • Celebrate the Holidays with the _____
  • Last day to triple your impact! Make your year-end gift today.
  • Drumroll please…
  • Shop meaningful gifts no one will want to return
  • _____ December News
  • Steve, your December newsletter: help _____ stop bear baiting for good
  • You make #GivingTuesday possible
  • Give hope to grieving families on #GivingTuesday
  • Give _____ your support on #GivingTuesday
  • We need you to continue the fight
  • Be the light
  • Giving Tuesday: Good deeds and good deals
  • How can you help on Giving Tuesday?
  • Let’s go!
  • This Holiday, Remember the Trees
  • Celebrate #GivingTuesday!
  • Ricky Bobby would have never walked again
  • Add your name to our holiday message for sick kids
  • Grateful to be alive
  • Giving thanks this #GivingTuesday
  • Giving Tuesday: Make a Difference for Animals
  • On this #GivingTuesday and EVERY DAY
  • A worthy tradition
  • Sharing Our Husky Holiday Spirit
  • Invest in families on #GivingTuesday
  • Support Children’s Hospital on #GivingTuesday!
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Today is #GivingTuesday!
  • Today is the Day!
  • You make our discoveries possible
  • TODAY ONLY: Your gift is doubled & rewarded!
  • No Justice for Braveheart After Kitten’s Killer to Serve No Jail Time
  • Three days only: All donations matched 2 to 1!
  • Join ______ for #GivingTuesday and have your gift doubled
  • Reminder – _____ Online Event – Disaster Ignored – December 4th
  • Find the Perfect Gift on Cyber Monday
  • Great gift ideas + free shipping!
  • Tomorrow is the Big Day!
  • An ocean of a deal for you!
  • Shop $50 or more, get a free membership!
  • Where did you spend your Thanksgiving?
  • Cyber Monday ONLY: All Unwrapped gifts matched!
  • Our gift to you this holiday season
  • The best gift
  • Exclusive Gift Offer Enclosed
  • Surprise! 20% Member Savings + Free Shipping
  • Ready?
  • Membership Happenings – December 2013

EOY Fundraising Toolkit

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve MacLaughlin is a Director of Analytics at Blackbaud, the leading provider of technology and services to the nonprofit sector. Steve has spent 20+ years driving innovation with a broad range of companies, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), Institute of Fundraising National Convention, Civil Society Conference, Resoure Alliance’s Fundraising Online, and a keynote speaker at such events as the Crescendo Practical Planned Giving Conference.

Steve serves on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and supports its focus on both the growth and professionalism of the nonprofit technology field as well as building knowledge and information sharing capacity throughout the sector.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, will be published in September 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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